Type to search

Sale of class rings: $150 windfall and a lesson in market economics


The price of gold had skyrocketed in 1980. Soaring interest rates, along with the hostage situation in Iran, were fueling fear and uncertainty. When events like these occur, the value of precious metals usually rises. One of my uncles, a consummate coin collector, was acutely aware of this trend and learned to take advantage of it. While on his frequent trips to the Atlantic City casinos, he would obtain rolls of half-dollars and quarters from the cashiers. Back then, there were still silver coins in circulation, as well as the newer “clads” that had a layer of silver in them. (These coins were like a silver “sandwich.”) The prices of gold and silver increased simultaneously, so, after carefully checking each roll, my uncle would remove any coins containing silver. Buyers were paying up to 10 times face value for silver coins and somewhat less for the clads, so a smart collector had the potential to make a tidy profit.

Back in the real world, my wife, Luann, and I had been married about five years; we were in our first house; and our cute, little, 1-year-old daughter was leading the league in diaper usage. We quickly learned that babies are expensive, so we looked for ways to save a buck or make a buck whenever possible. One night, I saw an ad in the Temple University alumni magazine for the company that provided most of the class rings to local high schools and colleges. Luann and I had high school rings, but they led a sedentary existence and hadn’t been moved for years because we never wore them. I checked and found out that both rings contained some gold. How much, I didn’t know, but it didn’t really matter. We weren’t benefitting from them, and we would benefit from the extra cash, so we decided to sell them on the open market.

At the northern end of City Line Avenue, just before the entrance to the Schuylkill Expressway, stood the old Marriott Hotel, with the famous Kona Kai restaurant adjacent and facing the road. I had noticed a sign in the window of one of the shops at street level. Indeed, it was an upscale jewelry shop, no doubt fancy inside, catering to the well-to-do hotel guests. The sign read: Precious metals bought and sold. 

I passed the Marriott each evening on the way home to Drexel Hill, so it would be easy for me to stop in the jewelry store and find out what kind of offer our two class rings would bring. Meanwhile, on Friday, I saw a small ad in the Philadelphia Inquirer: Buying gold and silver. Top prices paid. Room 219, Marriott Hotel, City Line Ave. Friday and Saturday only.

Wow! Talk about good luck: two buyers at the same place. I envisioned a mini bidding war. Saturday, on the way to the hotel, I wondered about the best strategy to use. After I parked the car, I decided to visit the fancy shop first, then hop up to Room 219 and compare offers. 

The hotel jewelry shop was elegantly decked out with artwork, chandeliers and beautiful glass counters that housed a dazzling selection of rings, watches, bracelets and earrings. The somewhat snooty salesman was wearing a very expensive-looking suit, which clashed a bit with my jeans and tri-colored windbreaker. He gave me a double-take and strolled over, obviously thinking I must have stumbled into the shop by mistake. After I told him I wanted to sell the two rings, he loosened up a bit, asking if he could weigh them in order to give me a price. He did so and said, “We’ll give you $95.”

“Thanks for your offer,” I replied. “I’ll be right back.”

I took the stairs to the second floor and found Room 219. After I knocked on the door, a guy answered who was anything but aristocratic. Papers littered the room. On the larger table was some kind of food I had never seen before, and I wondered if it had ever been alive; on the smaller table was a scale. A scary-looking man – no doubt the security detail – sat in a chair and silently looked out of the window. When I told the first guy I wanted to sell the two rings, he said in badly broken English, “Hokay, give to me.” 

“OK, here they are.”

After examining them, he said the magic number, “$175.”

“Thanks, buddy. I’ll be right back.”

I returned to the snooty guy and let him know that the man upstairs offered me much more than he had. His condescending response was: “Oh, yes, but he’s a gypsy!”

I said, “Maybe so, pal, but that ‘gypsy’ is paying green money, just like you, only there’s a lot more of it … By the way, have you ever thought about becoming a butler?”

I jogged back up to room 219 and made the better deal. 

Eight or nine years later, the hotel closed, allegedly because of management issues and competition with the center-city hotels. Too bad that “gypsy” was only there for two days. He may have been able to help

Charlie Sacchetti

Charlie Sacchetti is the author of three books, “It’s All Good: Times and Events I’d Never Want to Change;” “Knowing He’s There: True Stories of God’s Subtle Yet Unmistakable Touch,” and his newest, “Savoring the Moments: True Stories of Happiness, Sadness and Everything in Between.” Contact him at worthwhilewords21@gmail.com.

  • 1

Stay up-to-date with our free email newsletter

Keep a pulse on local food, art, and entertainment content when you join our Italian-American Herald Newsletter.